In Search of R’lyeh

In Search of R’lyeh

Underwater Ruins

By: James G. Boswell 

Note: This is a preview from the scary short story collection e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories.” To find out how the story ends, you can buy the collection on Amazon for $2.99. Click here to buy on Amazon.

“This is going to be our big break, Matt. I just know it!”

Donny beamed with excitement as he sat down with his business partner and childhood friend, Matt in the office of their film production company.

Matt eyed his friend warily and said, “Whoa, calm down. What are you talking about?”

Donny said, “I just got off the phone with a representative for… wait for it… Jim Camberson! He said they want to talk to us about filming a documentary he’s making about searching for some lost city at the bottom of the ocean or whatever.”

Matt furrowed his brow as he replied incredulously, “Jim Camberson? You mean the guy who directed The Exterminator, Extraterrestrials, and Chasm? That Jim Camberson?”

Donny clapped his hands excitedly and said, “Yes! Apparently, he’s making a new documentary and he wants to work with a small, independent production company to make it. Not many people know this, but in addition to the fact that he’s a world class director, he’s also a deep-sea explorer. He’s even a National Geographic explorer-in-residence. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds important.”

“Yes, it does,” Matt said thoughtfully. “But, how did he hear about us?”

Donny winced and said, “Oh come on, Matt. We’ve both been in the film industry for years. You know we told all our contacts when we decided to go off on our own. Most of them just wished us luck, but it seems like someone took us seriously. And now we’ve got Jim Camberson himself calling us up to hire us!”

“You mean, Jim Camberson’s representative. No doubt our price point is pretty attractive as well, considering we’re in the bargain bin as far as filmmakers go.”

“Whatever, look, it’s like I said – this could be out big break. We’ve got a meeting with him next week to discuss the details and sign the contract.”

“I don’t know, Donny. This is moving pretty quickly. We should think about it.”

“What’s there to think about? When a bigshot like Jim Camberson tells you that he wants to work with you, then you just do it. Besides, what else do we have going on? We need this, Matt.”

Matt thought for a moment and said, “Ok, Donny. I’m on board. Let’s just hope this works out well.”

“Oh, it’s going to work out really well, my friend. I guarantee it,” Donny said as he smiled brightly.

Matt inwardly shuddered. He hated it when Donny guaranteed anything. That almost always meant something was about to go wrong.

Donny and Matt showed up fifteen minutes early to their meeting with Jim Camberson. His office was in huge, gleaming building in the nicest part of the city. Camberson’s assistant immediately ushered them into a large meeting room with an oval desk. Around the desk sat a petite young woman, a large older man, and James Camberson himself, tall and lanky with salt-and-pepper colored hair.

When they entered, Camberson leapt out of his chair and marched up to them, holding out his hand and saying in a booming voice, “Hello boys! Thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me. I really do appreciate you stopping by.”

The other two people stood up as well, and Camberson introduced them. He indicated the woman first and said, “This is Dr. Petra Maxwell, PhD. She’s a marine biologist and is acting as my primary scientific advisor for this project. We met through our work with National Geographic.”

Dr. Petra shook hands with Matt and Donny, giving them both a quick smile and saying, “Good to meet you.”

Then, he indicated the man and said, “And this is Captain William Billingsly, or Captain Bill. He’s a British Navy veteran who started his own maritime trading company years ago. He’ll be lending us his sailing expertise and the use of his ship, The Vigilant.”

Captain Bill shook hands with Matt and Donny as well, crushing them with his massive paw and saying “Cheers.”

“Excellent,” Camberson said as each person took a seat around the desk. “Let’s get down to business. The project entails combining my knowledge of storytelling with my passion for explora…”

Matt interrupted and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Camberson, sir. Please forgive me, but could you say how you heard about us? We’re not exactly a household name like you are.”

Camberson smiled like a Cheshire cat and said, “Oh, I’ve actually known about you both for a long time through the film industry. I’ve always been very impressed by your work. You could even call me a fan.”

Matt’s eyes narrowed in suspicion, and Donny’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Camberson continued, “You boys recently started your own company, didn’t you? When I heard about this, I found it to be quite serendipitous as I’ve been waiting for just the right film crew to come along and make my dream a reality. This project has been years in the making, and now it’s about to happen. I can barely contain my excitement.

“As I was saying, the project entails combining my knowledge of storytelling with my passion for exploration. Now, let me ask you a question: Have either of you ever heard of the lost city of R’lyeh?”

Matt and Donny shook their heads.

“R’lyeh is a city that is believed to have once existed on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean. It was built thousands of years ago by an unknown civilization that was completely shut off from the outside world. Most historians think that it doesn’t even exist, that it’s a fairytale like Atlantis. But, I believe it’s real.”

As he said this, Camberson reached into the inner pocket of his sport coat and took out a weathered-looking piece of paper that was folded in thirds. He carefully unfolded it, then pressed it flat against the table and slid it toward Matt and Donny. As they looked it over, Matt noticed the paper contained indecipherable handwriting and a small drawing at the bottom that resembled a man with the head of an octopus and the wings of a bat sitting on some kind of platform.

“Several years ago, I discovered a cache of notes written at the end of the 19th century by a person named George Gammell Angell. He was a professor of Semitic languages at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and he was an expert on the topic of ancient and lost civilizations. This is one of his notes that indicates the existence of this lost city, R’lyeh.

“After I learned of it, the city became somewhat of an obsession for me. I’ve since tracked down many other primary and secondary sources which support the notion that it’s a real place. As I’m sure you know, I’m not just a movie director but am an also explorer, particularly of deep-sea environments. The late professor’s notes indicate that R’lyeh sits at the bottom of the South Pacific, and I intend to find it. Thus, I require a film crew to record the expedition for posterity and hopefully, for profit as well.”

Camberson continued, “I’ll be using a submersible designed by Dr. Petra here. It’s equipped with cutting-edge sound and video equipment that will be recording as I search for the city. I’d like you to film every moment of the expedition leading up to that point. I’d also like you to conduct interviews of myself, Dr. Petra, and Captain Bill. Then, I’d like you to combine all the audio and video footage together into a documentary.”

“Where exactly in the South Pacific is this lost city supposed to be?” asked Matt.

“At a location called Point Nemo. It’s as far from civilization as you can possibly be in the ocean,” replied Camberson.

Dr. Petra said, “It’s so far from society, that if the International Space Station happened to pass overhead while we were there, we’d be closer to the astronauts than any other human being on the planet.”

Matt shifted uncomfortably in his seat. This was starting to sound like a much bigger endeavor than he’d counted on. He asked, “How long will the whole project last?”

Captain Bill answered this time and said, “We’ll start by flying out to Auckland, New Zealand where my ship is waiting for us and disembark from there. It will then take us about a month of sailing to reach Point Nemo. Once Mr. Camberson has found this lost city, which will take an indeterminate amount of time, it will then take about 45 days to return to land as we sail against the current.”

Matt stared at him in disbelief. He hadn’t been prepared to confront the prospect of such a long voyage.

Camberson said, “In order for us to get started, I need you boys to sign this contract. It’s mostly legal mumbo-jumbo that you don’t need to concern yourselves with. Mainly, it says that you’re entering into this project of your own volition and that you indemnify me, my company, and the rest of my crew in the event of any unfortunate accidents that may occur. But, I’ve been planning this for years and I’ve considered every contingency. I guarantee a successful outcome for all.

Matt shuddered at the word, “guarantee.”

“Before I show you the contract, I must insist that the terms are non-negotiable. However, you can take comfort in the fact that should our little film make any money, you’ll each receive favorable royalties. And, though this goes without saying, you’ll have the prestige of the Camberson name all over one of your first projects.”

Camberson slid the contract across the table. Donny reached for it, but Matt took it before he could get it. Matt immediately flipped to the section that described upfront compensation. He was crushed to see that it was for a ridiculously low amount. It dawned on Matt that Camberson chose them not because of their reputation, but because he knew they were desperate.

Matt began to say, “I think we need to discu –“ but Donny interrupted him and said excitedly, “We’ll do it!” He then grabbed the contract out of Matt’s hands, took a pen out of his pocket, and signed it without reading a word of it. Matt looked at him in shock and anger. However, Donny merely pushed the contract over to him, held out the pen, and pointed at the part where Matt was supposed to sign.

Matt’s shoulders slumped in defeat and he snatched the pen out of Donny’s hand. Then, he quickly scribbled a sloppy signature on the contract and spiked the pen on the table in frustration. The deal was made.

Matt yawned as he panned his camera across the wharf while workers loaded The Vigilant with supplies. It was still early in the morning, and the sun had started to peak out from the horizon. They’d arrived in New Zealand the day before, and Camberson wanted to get out into the water as soon as possible.

Matt stopped the camera as Captain Bill came into view in the foreground with his ship in the background. The captain held a steaming cup of coffee and stood still as Donny pinned a small microphone on his jacket. Through the lens, Matt could see Camberson’s submersible, dubbed the Deep-Sea Discovery, being loaded into the ship’s hull with a small crane.

Donny said, “Ok, Captain. I’m going to ask you a few questions and you can just say whatever answer enters your mind in the moment. We want this to be very spontaneous, so don’t worry about it sounding perfect. Later, we’re going to edit my voice out, so this interview will appear to be a monologue by you. Does that make sense?”

“Aye,” replied the captain as he sipped his coffee.

“Great,” said Donny. He then turned to Matt and said, “Are we rolling?”

Matt gave him a thumbs-up, and Donny stepped out of view of the camera and asked, “What are doing right now, Captain?”

With a frustrated grunt, the captain replied “Are you daft? We’re loading up the ship, what’s it bloody look like we’re doing?”

Donny winced and asked, “I mean, how are we preparing for the trip?”

The captain grumbled, “Oh bollocks. We’re taking six months’ worth of supplies including foodstuffs, water, and toiletries as well as medical supplies. Heaven forbid one of you pretty boys breaks a fingernail out there.”

Matt and Donny looked at each other with frustration. None of this is going to work for the documentary. Donny decided to try a different approach.

“You seem a bit frustrated, captain. Are you nervous for the trip?” he asked.

The captain sneered sarcastically and said, “I’ve got nothing to be nervous about, lad. However, I must say that as far as sea voyages go, this one is already all bollocksed-up.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, for one thing, we’ve got a red sunrise. That’s never a good sign. A red sunrise is a bad omen indeed. It suggests blood is on the horizon.”

Matt panned his camera over to the sunrise to reveal that it did indeed appear to be blood red. Then he panned back to the captain who continued, “Another thing is that I don’t like the look of your camera boy here. He looks like a Jonas to me. You know what I mean by a ‘Jonas’? That’s a person who brings bad luck at sea.”

Matt started to say something in response but shut his mouth.

“One more thing,” said the captain. “It’s downright awful luck to start a voyage on a Friday, yet here we are, on a Friday, about to risk our lives at sea to find some fairytale city that doesn’t even exist. It’s as if the stars are aligned against us!” With this, the captain’s voice rose, and he began to tremble with anger.

He continued, “I tried explaining all this to our esteemed benefactor and fearless leader, but did he listen to me? Of course not. Well, let me tell you something, bucko. I’ve only been sailing for nearly 50 years, and one thing I know is you don’t bloody well start a bloody voyage at sea on a bloody Friday with a bloody red sunrise with a bloody Jonas on board! If I didn’t need the bloody money so bad, I’d have told that pompous arse to shove it!”

The captain was shouting now and several of the workers had turned to see what the commotion was. He shook so violently that the lid of his coffee popped off and piping hot coffee spilled all over his hand. He shouted “Ow!” and dropped the cup to the ground. The remaining coffee splashed up directly into his eye, and he screamed in pain as he doubled over, covering his face with his hands.

Donny rushed to the captain’s side and asked, “Captain Bill, are you alright?”

“It’s the stars,” moaned the captain. “The stars are aligned against us. We’re doomed.”

After leaning in close to check his eye, Donny detected the smell of rum on the captain’s breath. He was drunk…

Click here to find out how the story ends and to read many more tales of terror by purchasing the e-book, “Deprived …and Other Stories” on Amazon for $3.99.

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